Death Penalty Decline Signals ‘Long-Term Change’ in Capital Punishment

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Photo by Nick Webb via Flickr

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.

The report, entitled ‘The Death Penalty in 2017,” notes that the 23 executions in 2017 were the second fewest since 1991, and the number of total imposed or projected death sentences (39) this year is the second lowest since 1972, the report said.


Table courtesy DPIC

“The new death sentences imposed in 2017 highlight the increasing geographic isolation and arbitrary nature of the death penalty,” said DPIC Director Robert Dunham in a press release accompanying the report.

Just three countries—Riverside, CA; Clark, NV; and Maricopa, AZ—were responsible for more than 30 percent of the death sentences levied around the country.

Nearly 75 percent of executions took place in four states: (Texas (7); Arkansas (4); Florida (3); and Alabama (3).

The report notes that Harris County, Tx., which once led the nation in the number of executions, and did not execute any prisoner or impose any death sentence this year, is symbolic of the decline.

Dunham said the declining numbers coincide with a sharp drop in public support for the death penalty across the U.S., now at 55 percent—a 45-year low.

See also: Texas  Death Row Population Down Again

Download the full report here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

2 thoughts on “Death Penalty Decline Signals ‘Long-Term Change’ in Capital Punishment

  1. Tell Doyle Lee Hamm about the meaning of the decline, I suspect he would laugh with some bitterness and much irony. He’s terminally ill on death row in Alabama with multiple cancers. Yet the state of Alabama is desperately trying to execute him before he dies of his painful and consuming disease. This is a bizarre form of vengeance, well beyond any sense of retribution that is constitutionally mandated. The death penalty in the U.S. has long since abandoned its retributive underpinnings, replacing any sense of proportionality with a lust for vengeance by victims, much to the political profit of grandstanding prosecutors. A law that cannot recognize the principle of proportionality and humanity has lost its moral and constitutional grounding.

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